ALBANY, New York, February 3, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Calling access to abortion and contraception “a fundamental pillar of women’s equality,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed to make health insurers provide contraceptives and abortions “cost-free” at the taxpayers’ expense to female policy holders.
Cuomo made his announcement in response to the election of President Donald Trump, who promised to repeal Obamacare, his predecessor’s increasingly unpopular universal healthcare plan.
Cuomo’s promise is that “the State will ensure that contraceptive drugs and devices are covered by commercial health insurance policies without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles regardless of the future of the Affordable Care Act … and all medically necessary abortion services are covered by commercial health insurance policies without co-pays, coinsurance, or deductibles,” he stated in a news release.
“These regulatory actions will help ensure that whatever happens at the federal level, women in our state will have cost-free access to reproductive healthcare and we hope these actions serve as a model for equality across the nation.”
But the health insurance industry quickly pointed out that there is no such thing as “cost-free” insurance. Leslie Moran, senior vice president of the New York Health Plan Association, told LifeSiteNews, “When the governor says there will be no cost, that doesn’t mean it will be free.”
“Our objection is that is that it goes farther in terms of no-cost sharing especially in a state that has health costs that are higher than the national average,” Moran said, noting that the proposed change would “further drive up costs.”
The added cost will be spread among existing policy holders, causing a rise in their premiums.
Moran said another concern is the inconsistency of a regulation making abortions and contraception free to the insured while those with other conditions such as diabetes have to pay some of the cost of the drugs themselves. Likewise, those needing other kinds of surgery must pay some of their costs.
Kathleen Gallagher of the New York State Catholic Conference said making abortion free would “absolutely mean more abortions in New York. … Studies show whenever government provides funding abortion increases.”
New York is one of four states that have voluntarily included abortion in Medicaid, the longstanding health plan for the poor. Another eight states have been forced by court orders to provide abortion coverage in Medicaid.
In 2014, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 93,299 unborn children were aborted in New York and 43,913 of them were paid for by Medicaid.
Cuomo’s promised regulation is almost a duplication of a bill introduced last month in the legislature, but it could well be defeated in the Republican-dominated, pro-life Senate.
Another drawback of the bill is that it’s the work of someone else and would reflect less credit onto Cuomo.
“This is a political stunt,” Gallagher told LifeSite. “Cuomo is rallying his base,” possibly for his campaign for re-election as governor next year, and possibly for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.
Once Cuomo officially publishes the proposed new regulations for health insurers, he must wait 45 days and consider all responses from the public. Gallagher observed that Cuomo promises generous exemptions for religious organizations who disapprove of contraception and abortion and even for “closely held” for-profit companies such as Hobby Lobby.
“We like those exemptions,” Gallagher said. “So we expect Planned Parenthood to strongly object. I’d be surprised if they survive.”
The organization that does more than 300,000 abortions nationally each year is a staunch supporter of Cuomo’s. In fact, he announced his proposed health insurance regulation at a Planned Parenthood meeting.
Barbara Meara, the chairman of New York Right to Life, said Cuomo might be on shaky political ground with this regulation once people realize they will be paying for it.
“Polling shows the majority of people don’t want abortion paid for by taxpayers’ dollars,” she said.
As for Cuomo’s national hopes, Trump’s victory indicates his promotion of abortion is out of step with popular sentiment.
“Trump won mainly because he took a pro-life stand,” Meara said.
Earlier last month, Cuomo vowed to “embed” women’s so-called right to abortion in the state constitution. But this is at least a four-year process requiring it to be passed twice by the pro-life Senate and then by a referendum.